Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Declare War on the Moon (with apologiest to H. G. Wells)

So, tomorrow morning we fire a missile into the moon's south pole, to see if we can blow a big chunk of it sky-high in hopes of detecting miniscule amounts of water vapor in the pulverized debris. If so it'll prove that the moon has water -- or had, until we blasted it off into space. If not, then we'll have permanently altered a stretch of moonscape never visited by any astronaut or probe.

It's kind of like when we blew up a comet a few years ago: a kind of careless arrogance towards altering or destroying things in our solar neighborhood. I've always been pretty gung-ho on our space program, but I draw the line at blowing up or blowing pieces off other planets and moons -- though I don't go as far as C. S. Lewis, who held that our planet really ought to be under quarantine to protect neighboring space from us, rather than the other way around. At least it's not as bad as the time they nuked the Van Allen belts, just to see what would happen (good news: not much). At least we got VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (the movie, not the tv series) out of that; I doubt we'll get even that out of our bombing the moon.

Oddly enough, since hearing the news I keep finding myself thinking back to H. G. Wells' THE FIRST MEN ON THE MOON, and wondering whether or not the King of the Selenites would take kindly to our preemptive strike, and what sort of counter-measure(s) his people might set in motion. Guess if a big 'Oy!' and 'you'll get yours!' signals reach us from the moon tomorrow after the blast we'll know.

--John R.

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